“Pasadena’s City Council is considering modifying the City’s Tenant Protection Ordinance in the wake of increasing homelessness, a state rent control measure on the upcoming November ballot, and the wave of development projects in the city.

The discussion was prompted by a report of a recent action at 120 S. Roosevelt Avenue, in which none of approximately 18 residents reportedly being evicted from their rental units by the landlord was protected by the current ordinance.

Pasadena’s 2004 Tenant Protection Ordinance, which was amended in 2017, requires landlords to provide relocation benefits to displaced tenants under five specific circumstances—demolition, conversion to condominium, permanent removal of the unit from the rental market, occupancy by the landlord or a family member, or a government order to vacate, or the termination of tenancy in housing owned by educational institutions in which the status of tenants as student,·faculty, or staff were discontinued by more than 365 days prior to tenancy termination.

According to the presentation, Pasadena’s Tenant Protection Ordinance benefits currently consist of a relocation allowance and a moving expense allowance.

The relocation allowance amount is twice the Fair Market Rent adjusted for dwelling size, as published by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. For a 2-bedroom unit, the current relocation allowance is $3,326. The moving expense allowance is currently $1,199 for adult households and $3,608 for households with dependents, disabled or senior members.

In all of the scenarios, tenants must be in good standing with incomes not exceeding 140% of the Los Angeles County area median income.

As presented by Senior Project Manager Jim Wong, the City’s Department of Housing offered four options to the Council to consider. Housing Department Director Bill Huang, noted after the presentation, however, that the options are “not stand-alone, and can be considered together or as a combination of parts.”

“This is very early in the discussion,” said Huang. ‘We’re just giving the Council some options, some places to start.”

The first option presented to the Council was that Tenant Protection Ordinance benefits can be paid to all tenants in good standing, and not just under the five limited circumstances. The amount of relocation benefits would be based on length of tenancy. The base amount of relocation benefits, as set forth in the TPO, would be paid to tenants who have maintained at least 10 years of occupancy.

As noted in the staff report, this option would have protected the tenants at·102 S. Roosevelt Avenue, assuming that they are income-eligible, in good-standing and maintained tenancy for at least 10 years.

The second option would increase or eliminate the 140% Median Income Cap. The third option would expand the Tenant Protection Ordinance benefits for units vacated to include units vacated because of owners who make property upgrades and increase the rent, and then subsequently re-rent the units at higher cost, once the apartments are vacated. The fourth option would expand TPO benefits to large rent hikes, which exceed a certain percentage and cause tenants to vacate the apartments.

A number of residents, both renters and property owners spoke to the Council in favor of making modifications, although Pasadena resident Ed Washatka told the Council, “I have reviewed the options and the recommended changes do not go far enough. This ordinance reads like a landlord protection ordinance. A true tenant protection ordinance would not just be about relocation payments. Tenants should not have to worry about being relocated against their will.”

At least three representatives of property owner groups also spoke in favor of opening a dialogue regarding the ordinance modifications.

Councilmember Steve Madison questioned in particular option three, which relies only on a certified statement from landlords regarding their intentions with regard to property improvements and rent increases.

‘That is a problem,” Huang said. “It could be difficult to enforce.”

Madison noted later in the discussion that the ordinance modifications tended to “place a thumb on the scale, and create unintended circumstances.”

Councilmember Andy Wilson asked Huang about the prevalence of incidents similar to the Roosevelt Avenue evictions.

“How do we know these are good ideas?” asked Wilson. “Do we have a sense of what’s out there?”

While a number of residents and property owners asked for the formation of a task force, Mayor Terry Tornek said he was “troubled by cases of people being evicted. Evictions are fundamentally unfair to tenants.”

Tornek also noted that “this won’t come without a cost,” and said, “We will have a discussion, but maybe not a task force. This is a slippery slope, but we will re-visit this issue.”

The Council mandated no specific date for Housing Department staff to return to the Council with more specific changes or recommendations.”

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